THE END 343
A fortnight ago he had written to the abbot: "Is it not God's will that I
should not have died during the exile in the south, but only now, after
I have returned to my home? But life and death are mere accidents
and not worth talking about."
By all earthly standards, Su Tungpo had a hard and unfortunate life.
Once the disciples of Confucius asked him about two ancient sages who
had suffered for their convictions and died of actual starvation. The
disciples asked Confucius if the two recluses, Poyi and Shuchi, regretted
it at the time of their death. Confucius replied: "These two men
were trying to save their souls, and they succeeded. Why should they
The "vital spirit'* that was the incarnation of Su Tungpo had now
spent itself. Human life is no more than the life of a spirit, a force that
governs one's career and personality, given at birth and taking form
In action only by the accidents and circumstances of one's life. As Su
Tungpo describes it, this "vital spirit has an existence independent of
the body, and moves without dependence upon material force. It was
there before one was born, and does not vanish after one's death. There-
fore this vital spirit appears as heavenly bodies above, and as mountains
and rivers below. In the occult world, it appears as spirits and ghosts,
and in our conscious life, as men and women. This is a common truth
and we need not wonder at it."
In reading the life of Su Tungpo, we have been following and observ-
ing the life of a great human mind and spirit, as they took temporary
shape on this earth. Su Tungpo died and his name is only a memory,
but he has left behind for all of us the joys of his spirit and the pleasures
of his mind, and these are imperishable.